Thursday, September 13, 2012

Rosy's scrawled book recommendation: I Am Not A Serial Killer by Dan Wells

I Am Not A Serial Killer
Dan Wells

John Wayne Cleaver is dangerous, and he knows it.
He’s spent his life doing his best not to live up to his potential.
He’s obsessed with serial killers, but really doesn’t want to become one. So for his own sake, and the safety of those around him, he lives by rigid rules he’s written for himself, practicing normal life as if it were a private religion that could save him from damnation.
Dead bodies are normal to John. He likes them, actually. They don’t demand or expect the empathy he’s unable to offer. Perhaps that’s what gives him the objectivity to recognise that there’s something different about the body the police have just found behind the Wash-n-Dry Laundromat---and to appreciate what that difference means.
Now, for the first time, John has to confront a danger outside himself, a threat he can’t control, a menace to everything and everyone he would love, if only he could.

Tor Books


Rosy's scrawlings on I Am Not A Serial Killer
This book is the first of a trilogy, a trilogy which I've finished reading but hope to see more of. I found John Cleaver's thought processes to be very interesting and a pretty accurate portrayal of a sociopaths, with the struggle to be normal or to survive in the 'normal' world brilliantly expressed against a backdrop of more typical sociopathic desires. John Cleaver isn't a serial killer, doesn't want to be one and because of that sociopathy gain a new fictional character that sheds light on what it might be like to live with the condition but not actually devolve into the worst state we know: a serial killer. Of course, more is revealed and the struggle becomes darker in the subsequent books but what you're likely to find yourself peering at is a young, well portrayed version of a Dexter like character, with a young boy deciding to use his sociopathy for good rather than for killing. How that turns out, I'll leave for you to discover.
I Am Not A Serial Killer book is captivating, not only for the thought processes of John Cleaver but also for the style of writing that expresses the tension and stark darkness that swirls about John. He isn't capable of making certain connections, thinking in certain ways or feeling certain things and within the story these concepts and feelings are only illustrated in others. The writing becomes a barrier much like John's mind or eyes, through which see a blurred image of ourselves. Sometimes understandable and at other times completely incomprehensible. The often disastrous illogic behind the actions of most 'normal' people or non-sociopathic people (John is rather blinkered on other mental illnesses or conditions) is there to see in stark detail as John ponders or rages over it.
To me, the psychology of John Cleaver was the most interesting aspect of the book, as you can tell from the above. But I'm also a fan of paranormal and supernatural fiction and particularly like seeing it blended with other genres. In I Am Not A Serial Killer crime thriller is blended with the demonic and for that you can have some fun following the negotiations a person unwilling to become a serial killer goes through when facing the possibility of killing, albeit a demon. Then you can have fun figuring out if killing a demon is acceptable or not, much like whether Dexter's kills are acceptable or not as those he kills are all killers themselves.
In I Am Not A Serial Killer though, I found the tie between demons, crime and sociopathy to be a little loose even though you could view the demons as evil people and work with that. In the following books, however, this tie becomes a non-issue as the world of John Cleaver becomes cemented even as he continues to struggle against himself. So, for those worried about the supernatural aspects or a little put off by them (you like pure crime more) just give it a whirl and by the end of I Am Not A Serial Killer you might just find yourself too curious to give up. To me, continuing on was well worth it for being able to see the world through John's eyes.
Also of note, I found the glimpse of what it would be like to mother a sociopath, knowing his or her condition, rather intriguing. There are a few other congenital and mental conditions where the role of the mother and her trials and tribulations is more well known within society. But what it is like being the mother of a sociopath definitely isn't, not until you see an overly-stressed mother crying and shaken after a disaster. Sociopathy is often looked on from the outside with fear and a lack of understanding, the people with it characterised as serial killers or potential serial killers more often than not. It is this characterisation along with his impulses that John struggles with. But you also see his mother struggling to tie him to the 'normal' world, have him recognise people as people, react correctly, follow rules of behaviour to keep John and others safe all while protecting John's heart and mind from damage caused either by himself or the actions of others. What it would be like to try to raise a sociopath to function, hopefully well, within society is briefly, tantalisingly there in the background of John's perceptions and for this alone I'd say this book is well worth reading.
I Am Not A Serial Killer is quite addictive and once you've become hooked you find yourself in a bubble world with half or more of your connections with reality cut. Reading I Am Not A Serial Killer really makes you realise just how differently humans can perceive the same world and each other as well as how much effort goes into all of us getting along.

I'd recommend this book to: anyone interested in psychology, psychology's involvement in crime, teen boys after an interesting read and those who like crime mixed with the paranormal. This book would likely appeal to males more than females due to the lead character's gender and the style of writing but I'd recommend it to anyone interested in psychology. I believe this book is sometimes seen as a kid's or teen's book due to the age of the protagonist but ignore that completely. It isn't, although teens would likely love it.

No comments:

Post a Comment